Do I Really Need Surgery To Lose The Weight?

March 10, 2013

What does having bariatric surgery say about you? And what will others think? In her continuing series, "What's your story?" Bariatric Foodie author Nikki Massie sheds light on these tough questions.

In my last blog post, I went explained my belief that we each have a story to tell about ourselves through our thoughts, words and actions and how the words we use to tell that story can either help or hinder our success.

So let’s start at the beginning of how this can play out for many of us: the process leading up to having surgery. In fact, let’s start at the very beginning: the decision of whether or not to undergo weight-loss surgery.

I cannot tell you how many people I’ve seen stress over this decision not because of medical considerations, or success/failure statistics or how it will change household/family/personal dynamics, but because of the story they believe having weight-loss surgery tells about them.

“Do I really need surgery to lose the weight? Why can’t I do this myself? Am I that out of control?”

Those are all questions I see folks asking themselves as they consider weight-loss surgery. And they’re all questions I asked myself, once upon a time.

So let’s break down this story we are telling ourselves.

Do I really need surgery to lose the weight?

In the years since my surgery I’ve found it interesting that we are quick to call obesity a disease and talk about it as an epidemic, yet surgery somehow seems extreme. Try putting any other epidemic or disease in there and see how that sounds.

“Do I really need surgery to beat this cancer?”

“Do I really need surgery to live with HIV/AIDS?”

“Do I really need surgery to help with my heart disease?”

I’m not even sure of the extent surgery is used in the above examples but those questions sound sort of ridiculous, don’t they? Of course you would seek out surgery for those conditions if that was the best option for you to overcome or live with it. So why do we think of the disease of obesity differently? Because the story we’re telling ourselves is that obesity is NOT a disease, but a character defect. Which leads me to the next two questions.

“Why can’t I do this myself? Am I that out of control?”

Having lived the post-bariatric lifestyle for five years now, I can confidently say I did this myself. Folks get mad when I say this but, yes, bariatric surgery does make it easier (not easy) to lose weight. And I think that’s why we think of it as a mark of shame. But really, in what other realm of life do we revere each other for doing things the hard way?

Do you congratulate someone who spends hours building a fire so they can cook dinner? Would you feel sympathy for a person who is bloodied from pounding nails into a wall with their fist? No! You’d expect them to use tools to make their jobs easier. But when it comes to losing weight, using an effective tool to help you achieve a goal is somehow shameful. I wonder why that is?

In the end, there may be many very valid reasons for you to decide not to have bariatric surgery. But that old story of surgery being a mark of inadequacy should not be one! Having weight loss surgery doesn’t make you a failure. Or a glutton. Or the black sheep of the family. It simply makes you a person who has admitted that they need help and a person willing to use an effective tool to make it happen.

That’s the real story – the true story from which you should make your ultimate decision.

In my next blog, I’ll go into the stories – good, bad and ugly – we tell ourselves in the days, weeks and months following surgery and why the line between a motivating story and a destructive one is a bit fuzzier than you may think.



Nikki Massie is the author of Bariatric Foodie, a website and online community that encourages weight loss surgery patients to “play with their food.” She is the author of three books: The Bariatric Foodie Guide to Perfect Protein Shakes, The Bariatric Foodie Holiday Survival Guide and The Bariatric Foodie Breakfast Book. Nikki lives Maryland with her boyfriend, 2 daughters, adorable Basset Hound & slightly high-maintenance black cat.

Read more articles by Nikki!